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Sky to subtitle most popular on-demand TV content by next summer

Thursday, July 9th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Sky’s most popular on-demand content will have subtitles by next summer, the company has announced.

Ian Rosarius, Sky’s director of product design and development, said 90% of the broadcaster’s linear content across 26 channels is available with subtitles.

This programming can be recorded and played back with the subtitles still intact.

Thousands of hours of subtitled content is also available on demand via Sky’s satellite signal, said Mr Rosarius.

“But we understand that the way in which people watch TV is changing, and that the vast majority of on-demand content is now downloaded over the internet,” he said.

“While there are significant technical challenges to overcome when subtitling on that platform, my team, and others right across the business are determined to address this.

“I am pleased to say that by summer 2016, all our customers will be able to watch the most popular and best Sky on-demand content, on their TVs, with subtitles.”

Mr Rosarius said Sky has a dedicated Accessible Customer Service team that has been providing support to customers using its accessibility services for the past 10 years.

The team has helped more than 67,000 customers to date, he added.

“We have just expanded the team and there are now over 160 specially-trained advisors.

“Customers can contact us via e-mail, text phone, live chat or sign video relay. Our bespoke accessibility website also has a ‘What’s on TV’ section where customers can filter programmes by access service.

'Challenges ahead'

“There may well be more challenges ahead, but we are determined to make this happen.

“We’ll continue to work closely with organisations like Action on Hearing Loss in order to ensure that our content is accessible to all of our customers.”

Paul Breckell, CEO at Action for Hearing Loss, a charitable organisation that supports people who are deaf or have hearing loss, welcomed the news that Sky’s most popular on-demand content would be available with subtitles by summer 2016.

He added: “We look forward to seeing detailed plans from Sky to subtitle the remainder of its on-demand content across all devices and third party content, in the near future.

“Through working closely with Sky, we know that they have been working behind the scenes on this development for some time and it’s great to see this come to fruition.

“This is a fantastic step and will make a huge difference to Sky’s deaf and hard of hearing customers, like teenager Jamie Danjoux whose petition continues to raise awareness of this issue.”

Jamie, 16, started petitioning Sky to include subtitles on its on-demand content two years ago.

Action for Hearing Loss is also running its own campaign, called Subtitle It!, which calls on the government introduce subtitling and audio description targets for on-demand content.

The campaign is to be discussed in the House of Commons after Labour MP Lilian Greenwood submitted a Private Members Bill.

Mr Breckell said it is now essential that other providers follow Sky’s lead and invest to overcome technical difficulties.

It is also vital “that the government introduces regulations bringing access to the on-demand world to end the digital exclusion of people living with a hearing loss", he said.

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